Wednesday, December 19, 2007

My Gardenia

I live in South Florida and had a very healthy Gardenia that I moved to the side of the house about 2 years ago. It has never grown leaves. I cut it down to help it along and it still remains bare. It is not dead. What can I do?

Thank you,

Anne's response: It may not be dead but a plant that has not had leaves in two years is not healthy and may never recover. There may be a problem with the root system of the plant in its new location. It needs good drainage - no wet feet - but it is not very drought tolerant. The soil should be acidic and contain a high level of organic matter. If the plant is near a concrete slab there may be too much lime in the soil. A plant that is too deep in the ground may also suffer. The plant should be planted a bit higher in the ground than it was in its original location. This allows the soil to settle without lowering the crown of the plant. The plant needs at least 4 hours of sun for good growth. If the stems of the plant show signs of green buds beginning to swell this spring fertilize the plant with a fertilizer for blooming plants.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Pine Trees


I’m really glad that you’re part of the News 14 Local News. Being new to the area and very much into gardening myself, I’ve learned a great deal from your segments. ‘Thanks You’

Question – I’ve recently had to have several dead pine trees cut down in my yard and I’ve even noticed more in my backyard that are dead – they were all good size pine trees, way taller than my home and cost a pretty penny to have them cut down. Then I noticed several other dead pine trees in my neighborhood – what is killing them? It is; lack of water, age or some type of bug?

Do you have any ideas?

Thank you,

Anne's response:

In new neighborhoods it is often caused by damage to tree roots in new home construction – and in hot dry weather the problem is worse. Another major cause of pine damage is the pine beetle. We have had a number of pine bark beetle infestations in Wake County. Living trees can be protected with some chemical sprays that are available to tree care professionals. Once the tree shows signs of damage it is usually recommended that property owners remove the trees to get rid of the pest. When you have a number of trees dying it may be time to consult a certified arborist that can diagnose the problem. Companies such as Bartlett Tree will often do a free consultation to diagnose the problem.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Killing grass in ground cover

We have grass growing in a couple of spots in our flower bed amongs the low growing ground cover. I have pulled and pulled the grass out but it is a losing battle. Is there a product that you can safely apply that kills grasses but does not harm other plant life? Harold M.

Anne's response:

There are herbicides labeled as “grass-killers” or are labeled to kill grassy weeds in shrubbery. Ortho has one in their line; so does Bayer, Bonide and Hi-Yield. Many of these products will take care of the grass you have growing in the groundcover. Read the label carefully to make sure it is safe to use on the ground cover you have. Remember that “Mondo Grass” is a groundcover and member of the lily family of plants. It is not a grass.

Watering newly planted trees

Dear Anne,

I recently planted, during the last week of October, Norway and Serbian spruce trees, and Douglas fir trees. I live in Essex County NJ. How often do I need to water them and how much water is recommended? If snow is on the ground, does depth matter, and does it matter if snow is or is not directly under the tree branches?

Thank you for your help.


Anne's response:

When plants receive the equivalent of 1 inch of water a week, whether in the form of rain or snow, there is no need to water plants. As long as there is snow on the ground there is no need to water. Another problem is the cold and drying winds of winter. Newly planted trees do need to be sprayed with an anti-dessicant to prevent the needles from drying out. Wilt-Pruf is one trade name for such a product.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Ground cover suggestions


I'm giving up on grass in Raleigh. I have about a 600 sq ft area where I want to put a ground cover. I want something that is low, evergreen, non-invasive, can handle partial shade and some tree roots. Any suggestions?


Anne's response:

I am using some dwarf mondo grass in a shady area. It does take light foot traffic, looks like coarse grass but would be expensive. I am using partridge berry on a bank and it works very well. It is a "vine" similar to vinca but hugs the ground and is also easier to control. It will also take light foot traffic. Moss is a possibility and so is strawberry begonia (saxifrage). None of the groundcovers will take the hard traffic that grass does however.

Magnesium Sulphate

Would a solution of Epsom Salt poured on any plant material have a harmful affect on the plant?

Would it have a beneficial affect on some plants and if so whhat plant family would it be beneficial for??

Thanks for your wonderful program, I try to listen each week on PTF.

Ted A.

Anne's response:

Some soils are deficient in magnesium so adding Epsom salt is recommended in many organic gardening books to improve the color and taste of carrots, eggplants and tomatoes. Rose growers often sprinkle a half cup of Epsom salts around rose bushes in early spring to encourage basal breaks for new canes from the base of the plants. It does get mentioned in some texts as a means of encouraging more vivid colors in ornamentals. As with all garden chemicals adding material that is not needed or adding excess amounts will cause other problems. It is a good idea to take soil tests in our yards every 5 years to make sure what materials are deficient or in excess.

Watering dormant trees

Do I need to water the deciduous trees I planted last spring while they are dormant?


Anne's response:

Yes. The roots of dormant plants are still growing. They do not need as much water as they do when they are in leaf but deciduous trees do need to be watered weekly the first year they are in the ground.

Dying Leland Cyprus Question

Anne… I have a privacy border consisting of about 8 leland cyprus running along each side of my back yard to screen my deck from the neighbors. The yard slopes away from the house.

On each side of the yard, I'm loosing the two or three leland cyprus at the lowest end of the row… those downhill and furthest from the house.

At first I thought it must be the drought… but as a few showed signs of ill health I hit them pretty hard with a lot of water. No use. They continued to decline.

I'm wondering if there is something else causing the trees to die… and if I should quickly cut them down to keep them away from the remaining healthy trees.

Thanks for your thoughts.

Tom P.
Waxhaw, NC

Anne's response:

The plants at the lower end of the row may have been planted too deeply in the ground or they may be in an area that retains more moisture then those at the top of the hill. I would did around the plants to see if you can determine if the roots are too dry, too wet or smothered with too much soil.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Lucky bamboo

Dear Ms. Clapp,

I have some lucky bamboos that live in water for a few years. Since the roots are now filling up the container, I’m wondering if I can trim them a little now.

Thank you so much,

Hien C.

Anne's response: Trimming the roots does help their performance but don’t trim off all the “new, white” roots. Remove the dark, shriveled roots; clean the container, replace the water in the container with fresh water. I add a drop of liquid fertilizer to 2 cups of water and use that solution to “repot” my Lucky Bamboo.


Hello Ann!

I am inquiring on Ferns.

I purchased a fern from the school this year and to my surprise, it held up in the sun. And I mean the direct sunlight.

As the weather turned cooler outside, I figured it would be best to bring it in, so I did, and it's dying.

Any suggestions?
Should I have just left it outside and is there a chance to save it? It is huge and so pretty.

Deanna H.

Anne's response: Some Boston Ferns will do well in sunlight but they are not winter-hardy. They also resent being brought inside for the winter and will shed a lot of leaves. Keep it watered in an area with good light and out of air blowing from a heating system. Some people keep them in a heated garage for the winter and then trim them back and put them back outside when the weather warms up in April.

Rosa of Sharon

Hello Ms Clapp, Where can I find a plant name Rosa of Sharon and when is the best time to plant them. Also, I'm wanted different color if they come that way. Thank you.

Anne's response: There are two plants with the common name “Rose of Sharon.” The plant we see most frequently in North Carolina is Hibiscus syriacus, which also has the common name althea. It is available in garden centers in the spring and is available in several shades of lavender, pink and white. There are also some with variegated leaves and double blooms. The plant grows to 5 feet tall or more and loses its leaves in the winter.

The other plant is Hypericum calycinum, also known as Aaron’s beard. It is a low shrub with evergreen foliage. It is a groundcover plant with large yellow blooms. /You will have more luck finding this plant in mail-order catalogs.

Palm Trees

Dear Anne:

We got palm trees from a farm in South Carolina, when is the best time to plant them and how should we take care of them. We live in Rockwell NC.

Thank You,
Elizabeth C.

Anne's response:

I would ask the farm from which you purchased them for planting instructions .It is usually best to get plants in the ground as quickly as possible after purchase. Some palms are not winter-hardy in all parts of Zone 7 – and I think Rockwell is in the Zone 7-a, or colder part of the zone 7. You might check with some of the nurseries in the Kannapolis area to see if they think the plants you have will grow in your area.

Grape vines

Hi Anne,

I live in an area that rarely has frost. In fact last year I never had one. I put in some Zinfandel hybrids a couple of years back (on heat and drought resistant stock) and the last couple of “winters” during any warm spell they take off. Just recently, even though it’s late November, I’ve got one starting to trellis up like crazy (I’d had a couple of weeks of colder weather). I’d like to keep them dormant (or get them dormant) for 3 or 4 months anyway to give them some rest and not waste their energy. My soil is not great so I’m trying to keep them working on the root systems a bit longer. I’ve also had trouble with pruning – losing sap. I melted wax on my cuts and that seemed to help. Usually they take off strongly in February – then stop for a bit and then again in early April but each rootstock seems to be different and they’re all played out by July. Have you any ideas how I can control things a bit? Can I just do weekly pruning of anything green until I’m ready to let them go?

Thanks, Dan

Anne's response:

I would check with your county agricultural extension agent for some help. The NC Cooperative Extension Service also has a web site with their information leaflets. There are a lot of wine grapes being grown in North Carolina but the “Zins” seem to do better in areas where there is cold weather. Any time you prune a plant you will have a problem with new growth starting. Late February is the recommended time for pruning grape vines – and prune them once a year to keep the loss of sap to a minimum. The “bleeding” is always a problem when you prune grapes.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Crepe Myrtle Question


I live in North East Pennsylvania (around Pittsburgh). We planted 14 crepe myrtles this summer down the length of our driveway (it is over 1000 feet long). They are only about 18 to 24 inches tall right now. We live in a very open, very windy, snow drifting area. What can I do to protect these crepe myrtles for their first winter? My husband wants to stick buckets over them to protect them from the wind and high snow drifts that can form. Any suggestions?


Sue S.

Anne's response:

It is unusual for Crepe Myrtle to survive in Zone 6. The top of the plant usually is killed to the ground at temperatures below 0 although the roots often will survive to -10 if the ground has a protective layer of mulch. The plants do bloom on new wood but I would not expect your plants to get much taller than 3 feet in a single season. Some gardeners have had success wrapping tender plants in foam thermal blankets for the winter but it is used more frequently to protect single specimen plants. The problems of using buckets and sheets of plastic is that when the sun is out the temperatures under the protective covering will be high enough to damage (“ cook”) the plant.

Japaneses Maples

Dear Anne,

Every spring my Japanese maples tree starts out fine but, eventually ends up throughout the season with partially withered leaves. The type is Bloodgood. What can I do to spruce this three year old tree up?


Anne's response:

There are two major reasons for withered leaves on maples – late frosts and too much sun.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Rubber plants

Hi Anne,

I was on your site reading about the other ladies rubber plant.

My question is I received a cutting a few weeks ago and left it in water to grow roots, after two weeks I decided to plant it because it was getting no roots

Now a week later I notice it wilting can you please tell me what I may be doing wrong, I am hoping I never killed it as it is a piece from my gramma's plant.


Anne's response:

It may have died after being left in water for so long or the air around the plant may not have been moist enough for the cutting to survive in the cutting medium. Keeping a plastic tent around a cutting and keeping the soil around the cutting moist, but not sopping wet, does help.

Sometimes you can revive a plant by making cut across the bottom of the stem at a slant. Put the cutting in warm water for about 45 minutes to revive it and then try to root it again. Getting cuttings to take is not a sure-fire process. Even plant professionals do not expect all cuttings to survive. That is why we make several the first time.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Rubber Mulch

Anne – What are your thoughts on rubber mulch vs. pine straw or pine bark mulch?

Sue J.

Anne's response:

My problem with rubber mulch is “what do you do with it when you no longer need it as mulch?” It is a product that does not degrade in the environment and you cannot put it in the landfill. It is not an “environmentally friendly” mulching material.


I read your answer about hibiscus plants not surviving in cold climates. i brought mine into a greenhouse that is actually part of our living space and it faces west. the plants are full of buds and blooming now. should they be cut back? how much water is needed? do they go into a dormant stage? i have had hibiscus plants (shaped to look like a tree) before, but this year I got a red one with the most unusual blooms. the flowers are usually just one petal going around, but these blooms have like 3 going around and are magnificent. Is this a special hibiscus flower?

Anne's response:

Hibiscus do go dormant but they will retain their leaves until new ones appear in the spring. The ideal time to cut the plants back is in the spring when they are put back outdoors. They should be watered once a week.

Transplanting a mature gardenia

Hi Anne, I have lived in my home for 15 yrs, and have 3 gardenia bushes that were here when we moved in. Each one is positioned between two azalea bushes, and all were planted in a row, too close together. The gardenias never should have been put where they are, and I would love to move them. Keeping them where they are means I have to trim them to about 2 1/2 ft wide, and the azaleas to about 4-5 ft wide. Can you advise me regarding the root system, how difficult it would be to relocate them?

Linda H., Mobile, AL

Anne's response:

You could root prune the gardenias now by using a spade and cutting through the roots at the outside edges of the plants. Prune the plants to a manageable size in March and move them to a new location. They will have to be watered on a weekly basis after they are moved. The easiest solution is to remove the gardenias now and find new ones to add to your landscape next spring. Gardenias are fairly inexpensive shrubs and if you want to continue to have them in your landscape new plants will have a better shape and growth pattern than ones that have been severely pruned most of their life.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Planting and spacing Nellie R. Stevens trees

Dear Anne Clapp: Could you tell me what distance to space Nellie R. Stevens trees to obtain a dense hedge or screen in 5 years? I will be planting 30 each plants, 10 inches in height. Thank you so much.

Robert C.
New Braunfels, TX

Anne's response:

I suggest you check with your local cooperative extension service for information on growth of Nellie Stevens hollies. In the acidic soils of North Carolina we expect rapid growth to about 15 feet wide and 20 feet tall. It takes about 10 years from a 3 gallon container to produce a mature plant. I would not expect a “dense hedge” from a 10 inch twig of Nellie Stevens in less than 8 years. One way of achieving your goal is to space the plants so you could remove every other one as they fill in the space.


We have a row of boxwoods along our driveway that receives full sun and after the drought they are brown. Should we dig them up or just cut down until we see live growth. They are only a few feet high.

Anne's response:

With the dry weather and warmer than usual fall temperatures I do not think it is wise to do major pruning. If the plant is still alive it will try to put on new growth that may be harmed by freezing weather. I suggest you scratch the bark on a few stems on the plants to see if there is still a green cambium layer just beneath the bark. If you see any signs of green I would wait to see what re-growth occurs in the spring and then prune the plants. If there is no sign of growth in the spring remove the plants.

Wisteria transplanting

Hi There, I found your site and would like to ask you a question.... I am in Melbourne, Australia and have a 10 or so year old purple wisteria growing on our pagola. My husband wants to enclose the area and wants to dig it up and move it elsewhere in the garden. It is a very big plant, and would need to be cut back in a big way. How much can we cut it back and how gig is the root system... how far do we dig out, what season is the best time to do this and would it survive? I have got so many different answers from friends and am clueless as to what to do.

Regards, Jacquii

Anne's response:

The root system on a wisteria is quite large. It is also a plant that reproduces from root cuttings so there is often a problem of having quite a large garden of wisteria plants when one is dug up. In the southeastern United States we find that the oriental wisterias are overly aggressive garden plants and prefer cutting the plants to the ground and applying a brush killer to the stump to kill the plant. Small plants may be moved during their dormant season.


I live in south Louisiana and I would like to transplant Oleanders. When is the best time?

Anne's response:

Oleanders are sensitive to below freezing temperatures so it is easier to move them just as new growth begins in the spring.

Plum delight loropetulum

Anne, I have 14 plum delight loropetulum's planted in front of my house.I want to move them to another location. They are around 4 years old. I have to prune them two to three times a year to keep them small. My question is about the root system. Do they have shallow or deep roots? I was told the best time to move them was in Oct. or Nov. What are your thoughts on this?

Thank you, Rena L.

Anne's response:

The plants may be moved during the fall if you are going to be able to keep them watered. You can expect a to remove a root ball at least as wide as the outer edges of the plant and about 10-12 inches deep. They should be replanted to a hole that is no deeper than the one from which they were removed and at least 10 inches wider.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Boston ferns

I have hanging Boston ferns outside and think I can place a plastic bag over them for the winter to protect them. How can I take care of them outside in the winter? Thanx.

Anne's response:

Boston Ferns in pots cannot survive temperatures below freezing. They are classified as a tropical plant. It is difficult to leave anything outdoors under a plastic bag. When the sun is out the temperatures inside the bag can get quite hot and the plants can be scalded. Boston ferns should be over-wintered in a location where temperatures do not get below 40F.

Grass - Bermuda or Zoysia?

Anne - My fescue lawn is beyond hope after this year's drought in Charlotte. Rather than spend the time and money on trying to revive the fescue this fall, I'm ready to kill it off completely and move on to something that's heat and drought tolerant. Two alternatives come to mind - Bermuda and Zoysia. Which do you recommend? I have only limited shade though I have landscaped several large areas that include trees. I don't relish the idea of combating an invasive like Bermuda with weed killer but figure it beats wasting water irrigating fescue. Is there any other alternative lawn grass that I should consider?


G. M., Charlotte, NC

Anne's response:

I have grown Zoysia successfully in the Raleigh area for over 30 years. It does not get watered unless I have applied fertilizer and it is not expected to rain that week. It is not as aggressive as Bermuda so it is easier to maintain borders around flower and planting beds. There are some newer cultivars that are even more shade tolerant than the original Meyer Zoysia.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Rubber tree pruning

Anne: I live in Ft Myers FL and I have planted a rubber tree plant outside our house about 3 years ago. It has grown into quite a beautiful tree. I need to prune it back as it is about 7 ft tall and probably 10 ft in diameter. Can you advise the best way and can I take the cuttings and plant them in another area of the yard? Thank you.

Anne's response:

The best time to cut a rubber tree back is when it is not actively growing – usually January and February. Do not cut back to leave a bare stem as the plant should have some foliage on a stem for new growth. The tip ends of limbs may be rooted in sand. You will need a piece at least 6 inches long with two leaf nodes on the stem. The leaf at the tip of the stem should still be a leaf bud, not an opened leaf. You may leave one opened leaf on the stem you root but cut the leaf back to one/half its length. Keep the cutting in a ligh area but not in direct sun. It will take at least 6 weeks for rooting to occur.

Crytomeria browning

Hello Anne- I have (had) a wonderful row of 15 foot tall cytomeria (I'm pretty sure) in our backyard as a privacy wall. We noticed recently that they are turning brown from the bottom up about halfway up the tree. Nearly all of them are affected in this way. Not sure if it is the drought, as no sprinklers hit them and they get water only by the rain. Or possibly some type of mite or fungus. I NEED to save these, as it will be nearly impossible to replace them. Should I hand water them like crazy? HELP!!! Beth P.

Anne's response:

Cryptomeria does have problems with heat and drought. In full afternoon sun it will brown out its lower limbs in dry weather. It needs to be planted in humus rich soil where it gets protection from direct afternoon sun. If this is the first year you have had problems with the plants it may recover over the winter. Be sure the plant is well-mulched and do not prune the brown limbs until it starts to put on new growth. You may want to take a sample of the plant to a good nursery to see if you are correct in your identification of the plant.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Holes and tunnels

Hi Anne, I live in Raleigh, and I am having a terrible time. My yard is being over run by something, I have a cluster of about 6 holes in my yard about 3-4" diameter, and there deep, I try to fill them in, but they just come back, plus they have these shallow tunnels throughout the whole yard, its hard to work and play in the yard when you fill your going to sprain your ankle falling in one of these. What can I do, are we have squirrels in the yard, I have never seen any rabbits or moles, but I have seen a chip munk here and again, what can I do, my yard in pitiful.

Thanks, John

Anne's response:

Rabbits and chipmunks would make the types of holes you describe. “Havaheart” Traps will work to catch them and you can use a Neighborhood location system of providing them with another home. It is suggested that you relocate them to an area at least 4 miles away from your home.

Peace lilly

Hi Anne,

I planted a peace lily out side for the summer. It did not die, but had many holes from slugs likely. I now want to take it in. Can I overwinter in cooler like I do other lillies or should I simply plant it and look after it better than I did this summer - darn slugs!!!


Anne's response:

The spathaphyllum or Peace Lily is usually considered a houseplant.

There are beetles, other insects and slugs that will form holes in the leaves. To keep it in the house this winter you may want to repot it to get rid of any insects in the soil. Keep it in an area with good light and a temperature of at least 55F. Water once a week or when the soil feels dry to the touch.

Blueberry bushes

Dear Anne,

I have three to four blueberry bushes in my yard in Matthews NC. I have
just realized that they are all dead! One side of one is still green but
is being taken over by all the dead leaves. I have never seen it this

Usually it turns colors and then the leaves fall, I think. I do not
recall it ever being dead. What do I do now? Prune it? Dig it up? Will
it come back in the spring?

Two of the bushes are over 10 feet tall and needs to be cut back either
way! Any information would be greatly appreciated!

Erin G.
Matthews, NC

Anne's response:

The heat and drought of the summer have been hard on blueberries and azaleas. If the plants were not heavily mulched the roots may have dried to the point that the plants are permanently damaged. If the plants were mulched and the plants were generally healthy until late August they may have gone into early dormancy. I would not do anything until the time they break dormancy in the spring. If stems of the plants are really dead you should know it by April and you can prune or remove as needed.

You do need to prune the very tall plants. I prune my own by removing the oldest and tallest trunks at ground level so the plant will produce new growth from the roots.

Brown Lelands

Good morning-

What is happening to the lelands? Is it the drought that is making them turn brown or is it a disease? My neighbor's started getting brown areas and then it all just went brown all over.

Needless to say that is worrisome if it is a disease that could spread to ours. We have a wonderful privacy screen with very large lelands and the possibility of losing them is heartbreaking. We ran soaker hoses along our line but now that even soakers are banned the concern has doubled. The other question is can you trim lelands? Some of ours are encroaching on our porch and the walkway between porch and leland is shrinking!

Love the blog - love the advice!

Anne's response:

As long as you do not trim the Leyland Cypress back to bare wood it is fine. It is not a plant that will put out new green needles on a bare branch. There are several causes of gradual browning and death of the plant. Plants watered with pond water often develop Phytoptera root root just as camellias and azaleas do. There are some dieback diseases that you can diagnose by looking for "oozing" cankers or sores on the bark of the tree. There are also mites that can cause severe damage, especially in hot dry weather. The county cooperative extension offices can usually provide information on what is causing problems in specific counties.

Brown azaleas, should I cut them down?

Due to the drought and not watering, I think I've lost my azaleas on the north side of my house. Should I just cut them down and start over. They were quite large and over eight year old bushes. There is one bush that had some green left but it looks half dead. Will they come back?

Anne's response:

Some of our brown azaleas will eventually recover by putting out new growth from the roots. If the area just under the bark of a branch is still green that branch may recover and leaf out. If the branch has died it Is best to prune it out as quickly as possible. If the plants do not leaf out in the spring you could try severe pruning in late April to force new growth from the roots.

Poncirus trifoliata

Hello Ann, I enjoy watching your show. I am interested in purchasing the poncirus trifoliata. Where would I find this plant? Thank you, Cecelia G.

Anne's response:

It is easier to find the plant at the spring plant sales of some of the plant societies than at commercial nurseries in this area. Seeds are available in some of the specialty seed catalogs and web site seed exchanges.

Kwanzan cherry trees

Anne, my kwanzan cherry trees, planted 3 years ago, seem to be dying. The limbs pop right off, the leaves that are left are yellow, brown and falling off the tree. Someone told me to have the soil tested before spraying with a fungicide. They recommended calling the local agriculture department. Could this be a cherry canker and can my trees be saved? -Beth

Anne's response:

Excessively dry weather can produce the symptoms you describe. You can usually spot a canker disease by looking for splits and shrunken areas in the bark of the plant. Using a certified arborist from one of the reputable tree services such as Bartlett Tree Co. to look at the plant is the best way to get a correct diagnosis.

Boxwood and the drought

Anne, Several of my boxwoods have a good bit of dead leaves. Should I cut the dead part off? Thanks, Kay

Anne's response:

If it is just the leaves that are at the base of stems there is no need to prune because that is the oldest growth on the plant. Plants are losing more leaves than usual in the heat and drought this summer. If entire branches are brown remove the branch to an adjoining stem.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Boxwood and the drought

Anne, Several of my boxwoods have a good bit of dead leaves. Should I cut the dead part off?


Anne's response:

If it is just the leaves that are at the base of stems there is no need to prune because that is the oldest growth on the plant. Plants are losing more leaves than usual in the heat and drought this summer. If entire branches are brown remove the branch to an adjoining stem.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Canna Lillies

I planted Canna Lillies 2 years ago in my garden to fill in behind some daylilies, and both years the only thing that has come up are the leaves. I have not had any flowers. What is wrong with these lillies? - Jennifer B.

Anne's response:

They may be young plants that are not yet mature enough to bloom. They could be receiving too much fertilizer or at least fertilizer with too high a nitrogen content. If the daylilies are blooming the cannas should have enough sun.

Plant info

Dear Anne, I enjoy your segments on TV, although I wish they were longer. I have a question about a plant, the cockscomb, which is the celosia cristata. My pastor has some in his yard and he cut off the top of one and told me to dry it and the seeds would fall out, which they are doing? My question: is this plant a perennial or an annual? Will it self sow and return? Any information you can give would be appreciated. Susan S., Clover, SC

Anne's response:

The plant is an annual so you need to keep the seeds in a dry place until you are ready to sow them in the spring. The seeds must be planted each year because the cold temperatures of Carolina winters are too cold for the seeds to overwinter outside.


In your latest blog you suggested that we don’t recondition our lawns this fall. So, does that mean even if we are leaving fescue and moving to a burmuda grass lawn we should wait till the spring to prep and seed? I have so many bare spots, I plan to over seed with the burmuda and not kill out the fescue. Will all this work and when in the spring should I attempt this? Thanks for the help. Brent

Anne's response:

Bermuda lawns are seeded in the late spring after soil temperatures are over 55F. You will have better luck tilling the fescue lawn and seeding with Bermuda but you could core airate the area and seed if the soil is not severely compacted.

Roundup Weed Killer

Dear Anne, I have a large maple tree in the middle of my lawn (30-40 foot high and 3-4 ft dia. trunk). I am completely redoing the lawn and need to first kill of the old lawn, which contains too many weeds. If I use roundup to kill the existing grass/weeds will the roundup hurt or damage the roots of the maple tree? Some of the maple tree roots are actually visible above ground. Once I have killed the existing grass I plan to add more top soil to cover the exposed roots. Thanks,
Larry P., Rocklin, CA

Anne's response:

I would not apply soil to cover the roots of the maple tree. They have grown out of the soil because its not soil they are happy to grow in. Covering the roots with soil will reduce the oxygen supply to the tree. The advantage of using Roundup is that it is a contact killer that is absorbed through the leaves of plants. If there are not cut places on exposed roots it is safe to spray the area with Roundup.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Yochino cherry tree dropping leaves

I have a yochino cherry tree that has dropped most of the leaves after they turned yellow. I had 2 of these planted last year and don't recall the tree losing so many leaves. The other y.c. tree has some yellow leaves and some have dropped but nothing like the other one. (both trees are probably 10 feet or so) I have watered both some, but not a lot. Could this be drought related? Can you give me a plan?

Thanks, S Adams

Anne's response:

From the description of the problems I think the problem is drought and heat related. Yoshinos do lose their leaves earlier than some other cherry trees and as many trees are this year they have gone into dormancy a bit early with the heat and drought of the summer. Hopefully we will have enough rain this winter for plants to recover. If we have adequate rain in February and March you should apply some fertilizer as the plants begin to open their blooms.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Lilac bushes

Hi Anne,

I have 6 lilac bushes. They are called "little kim". How is the best way to grow them, I put firewood ashes around them, like it said. I also fertilized once a month, with peter's plant and bush fertilizer. Please help.

Thank you,

Anne's response:

Fertilizing a lilac once a month during the heat and drought may cause problems. Most shrubs are much happier with an application of fertilizer just before new growth begins in the spring. The lilac “Miss Kim” is a cultivar recommended for southern gardens but I do not know the growth habits of one called little kim. Miss Kim does need a more neutral soil than the acid soils in the Carolinas so the application of wood ashes does help that. The application of lime will serve the same purpose. Lilacs do not like the hot afternoon sun so they should be planted in an area that geets good morning sun and protection from afternoon heat.

Poison ivy

I have a bush that I like. It has poison ivy growing in it. How can I get rid of the poison ivy, and not hurt the bush. Does Poison Ivy become dormant in the winter? Would I catch poison ivy in January? I was thinking about using limb cutting tool to cut the leaves off. Then let the leaves turn brown on the ground. Can I catch poison ivy from the stems? Is it safe to go after the stems and roots when the leaves are off?

Thank you for your help,
Winston H.

Anne's response:

The chemical that causes the rash from poison ivy remains in the roots, stems and leaves. Many people get poison ivy rash during the winter because they are pulling on the vines after to leaves are no longer there to identify the plant. One method of controlling the vine in a shrub is to make up a solution of Roundup in the early fall and use a sponge or paint brush to apply the solution to the leaves of the poison ivy. You do need to use plastic gloves to protect your hands and arms. The vine will be killed then you can remove the vine from the shrub. You need to wear plastic gloves when touching the vine. I have found it helpful to use a large plastic bag and start at the top of the vine covering the pulling the vine into the bag. Remember to wash clothes that come in contact with the vines – and clean any clippers or other tools with alcohol after you use them on poison ivy.


I transplanted 5 nandina bushes 4 years ago each year I mulch them and fertilize with standard miricle grow the have yet to produce berries and remain 24-36 inches tall ONe year I put lime on the soil as we live in the sylva area and we have to lime the yard every year it is very clay-like and we also live in a section with a lot of mica.

My next step after this winter is to cut them back to nothing and then I am done unless there is something obvious that I could be doing.

Thank you for you suggestions.

Nancy D.

Anne's response:

If the plants were not producing berries when you transplanted them they may be cultivars that were developed for decorative foliage, not berries. They need full sun, soil on the acid side and very little fertilizer to produce berries. Miracle Gro may contain too much nitrogen for nandina.

Leyland Cypress In Georgia

We have 4 Leyland Cypress trees along the back of our home that have disease (which I read up on) we have cut all the die back branches off and we have seen the red sap running down the trunk in these areas....will the tree sprout new branches where we cut off ??? Is there anything I can spray on the trees to stop the problem???We are on a complete outside watering ban in Georgia and so the only water they get is when I was watering through a sprinkler system and any little rain we might get. Please help.....Am I going to loose my babies??? I have a total of 15 of them and to loose these 4 would be a big problem cause we are growing them for privacy. Thanks for your immediate help.

Anne's response:

I don’t know whether the disease is Coryneum cardinale or Cytospora cenisia. Cutting out affected branches and spraying with a copper fungicide is the usual remedy. If the trunk of the plant is affected it is usually recommended that the entire plant be removed to keep the disease from spreading to other plants in the row. The disadvantage of growing a monoculture for a privacy hedge is that if one plant gets a disease all of the plants in the row will get it because they are planted so closely together. The better privacy screen is usually a combination planting of several different plants and planting them in a staggered row instead of a straight line. This gives better air circulation and makes it more difficult for a disease or insect problem to pass from one plant to the next.

Wisteria vine

Hi Anne,

I live in northern NJ. This year for whatever reason, it set beautiful buds, many flowered then mysteriously the buds began to schrivel and leaf production is spotty. It has been very robust til now, it's an old vine that has been trained as a squatty tree. Any suggestions?


Anne's response:

It sounds like someone may have sprayed an herbicide such as Roundup near the plant. Another cause might be a late freeze after the plant began to set out new growth.

Arapaho Crape Myrtle Tree

I have an Arapaho Crape Myrtle tree and it was doing well when I first planted it but now the leaves are turning brown. I would like to know what I should be doing to prevent this. Thank you.

Anne's response:

Leaves on Crepe Myrtles turn brown for several reasons. There are some root rot diseases, the plant may be too dry or too wet, the soil may be too alkaline or if the plant is recently planted the roots may not have been watered in to make good contact with the soil around the roots.

Non-fruit bearing plum tree

I have a non-fruit bearing plum tree. It is growing well and needs trimming. It is growing outward into my neighbors property. When is it best to trim it and how? - DLB of Apex

Anne's response:

The best time to prune a non-fruiting tree is in the dormant season. In the Raleigh area this is usually January or February. You will lose some blooms but the plant will flower in the spring. Trees are pruned to remove branches that are rubbing another branch, branches that grow in to the center of the tree and small limbs that grow out from the bottom of branches. Under North Carolina law your neighbor is within his rights to remove your plant material that grows into his yard.

Can I save my Boxwoods?

Hi Ms. Clapp,

I have 4 boxwoods planted in a circle around the utility boxes in my front yard. They are about 3 feet tall and probably about 7-8 years old. I noticed last week that 2 of them are almost totally brown. I gave up on watering my lawn last month, and I fear that drought has taken its toll on them. My question is, can they be saved or should I go ahead and replace them? I have watered them within the watering guidelines of my town for the past 2 weeks, but it doesn't appear to be having any effect.


Anne's response:

Some plants are going into an early dormancy and turning brown with the heat and drought. In some cases the plant is permanently damaged or dead but some plants may produce new growth when soil moisture rises and new growth starts to develop. This is a year that we may want to wait and see what happens in the spring. You haven’t lost anything by waiting until next spring to remove a plant that might recover. With the heat and drought I would not replace any plants until next year. There may not be enough water to water any new plants we put in the landscape this fall.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Hibiscus - accidental poisoning!

I accidentally sprayed my hibiscus with Weed & Feed instead of the insecticide I thought I was spraying it with! All the leave have turned yellow. Is there anything I should/can do? What will happen? Thanks, Plant Killer

Anne's response:

After an attack with weed and feed about the only thing you can do is hope. If you sprayed with no more than the recommended amount the plant may be damaged but not killed. If you work on the principle that if a little is good, more is better the plant has been killed.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007


Dear Anne, I have an indoor hybiscus plant and suddenly the leaves are turn color and following off. I also notice the the leaves feel sticky. Any suggestions. I appreciate any help I can get. Thanks, Lorraine

Anne's response:

From the description of symptoms I think there may be two problems. The stickiness of the leaves is probably from insect secretions. Check for white flies or aphids. You can spray the plant with Insecticidal Soap to kill the insects. I leave the Insecticidal Soap on the plant for about 30 minutes and then I wash it off.

When leaves turn color and fall off it can be from natural aging of the plant. If the leaves that are lost are the older leaves on the plant it is natural leaf drop. If new leaves are being affected it may be a problem with watering or the plant may have ben in the container too long and needs repotting.

Monday, October 1, 2007


I live in TN about 40 miles from Nashville. I have a lot of Althea bushes and today I found on my double pink there is something wrong with the leaves, looks kinda molded with some black on them. Please help. Thanks, Cynthia

Anne's response:

I think the plant you are referring to is Hibiscus syriacus or rose-of-sharon. Aphids and whiteflies may cause the damage you describe as can the fungal disease powdery mildew. At this time of year the better control is to keep diseased leaves raked up from beneath the plant and as daytime temperatures are in the sixties spray the plant with dormant or horticultural oil. Oil sprays smother over-wintering insects and disease spores.

"First Light" perennial sunflower

Hi Anne, I cannot seem to find the answer to my question on the internet and was hoping you could help. I purchased "first light" a perennial sunflower from the Farmers Market and a couple of the larger branches broke off. I was wondering can I root the broken branches in water or rooting compound then into potting soil or is there nothing to do but throw them out? Hope you can help. Thanks, Cathy in Apex

Anne's response:

Perennials can be rooted. The better way is to take a cutting from the tip end of the stem, no more than 6 inches long. Use a rooting hormone and vermiculite rooting medium. Keep the plant moist – either by misting or put the cutting under a clear plastic container. The cutting should be kept in a place with good light – but out of direct sun.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Worried about watering ban - Drought

Hi Anne, I love your very helpful gardening hints! I am new to the south and your expertise is greatly appreciated. My question is regarding the drought and water ban. I want to plant new grass seed this fall and am worried that the watering ban may continue into the fall months when I would need to water the seeds frequently. Would you recommend not planting grass seed this year? Thank you, Carol from Matthews

Anne's response:

I am telling people that unless it looks like we will have rain by mid-October it is better not to renovate a lawn this year. If the seed sprouts and doesn’t get watered on a weekly basis it will not survive. By November the soil temperature is usually too cold for good germination – but if the weather forecast is for an unusually warm November grass might be able to get started.

Dwarf mondo grass

Anne, is it OK to transplant some clumps of dwarf mondo grass this October? I have an area covered, but there’s several bare spots I’d like to fill in. Thanks!! Joe

Anne's response:

If you can water the mondo in well when you transplant it October is a good time to transplant. It can also be transplanted in the early spring.

Eucalyptus plant

I planted a eucalyptus plant, about 18” tall, back in May in a perfect spot in the yard. Although I was hesitant about planting the eucalyptus in the summer, it took off like mad, branches growing, new leaves sprouting, it was simply doing wonderful. Suddenly as the drought and heat really started to kill off my garden, the leaves of the eucalyptus started to turn brown and die. Now the entire plant is brown & brittle. I have never lost a eucalyptus this way, mine seem to get caught in ice storms. My question is: do you think the eucalyptus is dead? Or will one of the nodes survive and sprout back up? If it has a chance I do not want to dig it up, but it really looks dead. If there is no hope, I will plant another one this fall. Thank you for all your help! Suzy P., Semora, NC

Anne's response:

If you have scraped the bark of the Eucalyptus and it looks brown, not green, just underneath the bark the plant is dead. A lot of plants that were put in the ground this spring did not make it through the summer. The heat pulled water out of leaves faster than the developing root system good pull it into the plant.

Cryptomeria Japonic A'Yoshino Cedar tree

Dear Anne, We got back to our home in Hendersonville, NC after being away for four months. We found the subject tree with many dead brown limbs. The tree was planted about three years ago and is about 10t. high. Our landscaping company has trimmed off a number of the limbs. Is there anything we can do? Thanks, Suzanne

Anne's response:

I think you can chalk this one up to heat and drought. Hopefully with winter rains the tree will make some recovery although you should not expect to see new limbs to replace those that were cut off. An application of fertilizer in late February or early March should help new growth.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Plant carnivores

Hi Anne,

First, I do enjoy your program so much. As a gardening illiterate I have started trying to do some gardening thanks to you.

My questions are concerning your presentation on plant carnivores. In the winter how do you protect the plants, what do you feed them in the winter, and are they animal friendly (dogs and horses)?

Thank you for your time.

Maggie C., Durham

Anne's response:

My own plants stay outside in their pots all winter. They are in a protected area near the house and the temperatures in the Raleigh area have not been cold enough to freeze the soil in the last 4 years. They are not poisonous to pets and thus far the deer, squirrels, cats and dogs that check out my plants on a regular basis have not found the plants very interesting either.

Chinese Hibiscus

Should I prune my Chinese Hibiscus before I bring it in the house for the winter? Also, want can I do to get rid of the ants that have seemed to have found a home?

Maria from Durham

Anne's response:

Try one of the ant bait stations to attract and kill the ants. I don't think you will have a problem pruning the Chinese hibiscus before you bring it in the house. If it does put on new growth there is no danger of it getting killed back by frost.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007


Hi Anne- My camellias are losing all their leaves. They were planted 1.5 years ago and they had few blooms the 1st year. This year they are losing all their green leaves and the stems have buds at their ends. The stems are a darker brown then the rest of the plant. Any ideas?

Thanks, Kathleen

Anne's response:

Stems of old wood are always darker than the new wood on a camellia. Loss of leaves similar to what you describe is usually from plants that have been watered too much or plants that have dried out from lack of moisture. Is it possible that your plants were put in soil that does not retain moisture or were they planted so deeply in the ground that they retain too much moisture?

Camellia bush in south Arkansas

Hello Anne,

Our camellia bush has developed alot of tiny white specks on the under sides of the leaves. they are only approx. 1/16 in. long or less, and ovalish or elongated, not round at all, the tops of the leaves are very sickly looking also. would this be insect or fungus? need to know before i treat it, i don't want to be guessing.

Thanx, Kevin

Anne's response:

I think your plant is infected with “Tea Scale”. A scale insect problem with camellias that can be treated in cool weather with horticultural oil sprayed on the bottom of the leaves to smother the insect or spray with an insecticide that is labeled to kill scale. I have always preferred to spray with the oil – and I use Volck – in late September after the temperatures get below 80 degrees.


I live in Greensboro and have 2 young dogwoods planted. One is doing fairly well, growing and spreading out. The other tends to look like half of the tree is dead, but both trees are around the same height. Is there a fertilizer or something else I can do? I have tried to keep them watered during this drought. I do have some shoots growing up in the mound on both trees. Should I leave them alone? They look healthy. Is there anything I can do for them during the cooler months that are coming? Thank you for you help.


Anne's response:

Sometimes when we plant a tree the soil does not get evenly moist around the roots and the roots do not make good contact with the soil. Portions of the tree will loose leaves and die. Keep the trees mulched with ground leaves or a bark mulch and fertilize in the spring just as the flowers open.

Sweet tea olive

My daughter wants to set out a number of Sweet tea olives. What time of the year is best to set them out? We pretty much have everything else figured out.

Thanks in advance,
Randall H.

Anne's response:

I prefer to plant in October. The soil is still warm enough for roots to put on new growth and you can keep the soil moist enough for good root development. The plants are then ready to get a dose of fertilizer in the spring and start growing.

Outdoor plants

My geraniums, petunias, marigolds, mexican heather, spikes,etc.that looked so pretty this summer in my outdoor pots are now dying and need to be replaced. What should I plant?

Thank you,
Beth H.

Anne's response:

I like chrysanthemums, asters, pansies, ornamental kale and the ornamental Swiss chard with bright red and yellow leaves.


My hydrangeas were doing fine. Now one is getting black leaves starting at the top. It looks like something is eating them from the outer edge in. My plant is now about 1/4 of the original size. I trimmed off all of the black leaves and it started growing again and now it's starting all over.

-Marie P.

Anne's response:

Your hydrangea may be suffering from summer heat and drought which would cause the black and brown leaves. There are lots of beetles and insects that eat the foliage but hydrangeas usually do not suffer from the insect damage. Anytime you prune a plant it puts on new growth. If the new growth does not develop early enough it gets frozen by the first cold night and frost. That may cause you to lose the spring blooms. Black leaves could also be caused by overwatering a plant or having one that is in an area that does not drain well.

Rose of Sharon

Dear Anne, I appreciate you so much since we have lived in Charlotte for just over a year. We are in South Mecklenburg County and are interested in the Rose of Sharon for our yard. They were beautiful but touchy in Illinois.

Where can I purchase a hardy variety near Pineville or Charlotte, such as Freedom or any of the four month blooming, more common ones?


Anne's response:

The independent garden centers in your area usually have the ability to special order a specific cultivar of a plant if they do not have one in stock. Rose of Sharon is available in most of the garden centers in your area although it is a plant that the “big box” retailers do not usually carry.

What pairs well with Callicarpa?

Hi Anne,

I just had a pergola built in front of our house and would like a shrub that draws attention to the entrance at the corner of the pergola. My landscape consultant suggested a dwarf hinoki cypress, the golden variety. I also love the look of the Callicarpa Bodnieri specially when the berries stay in the branches after the leaves have fallen. Would Callicarpa, dwarf Hinoki cypress and little Spire sage work to soften the corner and give it a Wow look? Would it look too busy? My home is in Northern Virginia.


Anne's response:

I think you have a group of three plants that would work very well together. Another easy care plant that would add to the combination would be Autumn Joy Sedum.

Trimming crepe myrtle

Hi Anne,

We live in Myrtle Beach and have crepe myrtle trees in our front yard. I would like to trim them now & how do you trim them? Thanks, Pat

Anne's response:

Trim crepe myrtles in March before they start putting on new growth. If you prune a crepe myrtle in the fall it tries to put on new growth and it gets killed with the first hard freeze. As with any tree or shrub you cut out limbs that cross or rub against another limb, branches that grow out underneath a main branch and dead or injured branches. Many feel that if you remove any stems that are smaller in diameter that a “number 2” lead pencil you have better stems to hold blooms.

Weed killer

What kind of weed killer can you put on a vegetable garden in the fall so it won't affect the spring planting? We live in North Florida.

Thanks, JC

Anne's response:

Round-up will kill weeds but not be persistant in the soil so it is safe to use on vegetable gardens. I prefer to till weeds into the bed before they go to seed and cover the area with a layer of leaves or compost to keep weeds from sprouting over the winter.


Love your show! Have question which perplexed me this summer. My petunias are doing quite well but lately have squirrels rummaging and muching vigorously on the leaves. Have never seen this before. One basket is pretty well decimated. Previous years, no problem. Any idea why? Thanks and have a wonderful Autumn.

R.H., Chapel Hill

Anne's response:

The heat and drought this summer have made animals do strange things.

Squirrels are looking for any plants with moisture and they are evidently searching for places to hide their stash of food for winter.

You might put a shallow pan of water out to let the squirrels have a drink on hot days. They have started crawling up in my raised bed of lettuce!

Bulbs planted too early?

Hi Anne- I am NEW to gardening and recently had a lot of beds put in with lovely soil, trim , mulch but no plants yet! I live in Northwest Arkansas I saw all the lovely bulbs at Home Depot and bought a big bag. I assumed if they were at the store, it was time to plant them! My grandma has now mentioned ( after they are all in the ground and covered with dirt and mulch!) that she fears it's too early to plant them and they may sprout early or worse, not bloom in the spring as they will be confused. I went back and read the label on the bag and it does show on the chart they should be planted October/November Should I dig them up ? When should I plant the others I purchased for optimal results?

Julianne D.

Anne's response:

Bulbs can be forgiving so I would not do anything to the ones you have put in the ground. Tulips and daffodils can be purchased in stores in August and September. Keep them in a cool, dark place until the first frost. The ground will then be cool enough for the bulbs to start developing roots and get ready for their spring growth. Always read the planting instructions carefully and remember that northwest Arkansas is in zone 7 or zone 6 on most planting instructions.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Magnolia tree removal

Hi, I have a Magnolia tree that we planted about 4 years ago. We are having a pool put in and have to move the tree. Any suggestions, we don't want to lose it. Thanks.

Kay M.

Anne's response:

A magnolia tree that was planted four years ago should have developed an extensive root system by now. How, or whether, you move the tree depends on the size of the plant. If it is more than 8 feet tall it probably has a root system that is large enough to need the services of a professional with a tree spade. The plant and root ball may weigh more than 200 pounds and that is hard to do without a backhoe or tree spade. You may find that it is easier to just replace the tree with another one after you put your pool in. It is always best to move a plant when it is dormant so any move should be made during your winter months.

Fruitless Mulberry

Hi Anne, we have a fruitless mulberry that has been here the 10 years we have been here. I don't know how much longer it was here. It is a very big tree. Anyway, we have had a very wet summer, not flooding here, wetter than usual. And for about a month now we have been losing leaves on our fruitless mulberry. Is it dead? Or is there anything we can do?

Thank you,
Christie O.

Anne's response:

Trees do lose leaves when they are under stress. The stress can come from air pollution, too much or too little water, disease or insect problems. Mulberries do need good drainage so it may be in soil that is holding too much moisture. If the ground seems “swampy” you may need to improve the water drainage in that area. Roots that spend too much time in wet soil will be destroyed and the tree will die. By September many trees do go into early dormancy if they are under stress. Early dormancy does not mean the tree is going to die, it just means it is behaving as though winter is coming a little early.


Anne: I live in beautiful Lakeland, Florida. What insecticide can I use to kill those little green worms that loves to destroy my Azaleas. Thanks in advance.

Bill W.

Anne's response:

Liquid Sevin is usually a safe insecticide for worms and caterpillars.


Hi, I live in Lexington Ky I have a two year old gardenia that I have always taken inside in winter. It is now really large,do I have to take it inside in the winter?

Carolyn L.

Anne's response:

Florists gardenias are usually rated as being hardy to 30F. There are some cold hardy gardenias that are rated for areas that get as low as 10F which is a Zone 8 low temperature. Kentucky is usually considered as a Zone 6 plant hardiness state where temperatures can drop below Zero. Unless you have a very warm winter your plant will not survive outdoors.


We have purchased my in laws old house. Against the house are four camellias planted in the sixties and treated like shrubs..cut within an inch of their lives every year! I just discovered that the effect on them is rather bonsai like at the base--as they have super tremendous and beautiful trunks such as I have not seen on a Camellia before. I am concerned because they must be moved to a new location and I am certain their root balls must be mixed as they are planted close together. We are perplexed at how to get these out of the ground without harming them. We have been advised to loosen the soil and use truck and a rope cushioned by a hose to lift them out. I had considered watering the soil quite well a few days in advance to help soften it (we live in Greenville, SC--it is dry here and the soil is rather hard) I have not moved a Camellia before and I am not certain what to expect as far as the size of the root balls. I have not allowed the bushes to be trimmed since we purchased the house 7 months ago and they are probably about 4 feet now and loaded with leaves. (quite healthy despite their current living arrangement) If we manage to move them successfully...then get them trimmed properly they will be some of the most beautiful Camellias I have ever seen, having these massive trunks and I am anxious to do everything I can do to save them. You said that you don't fertilize Camellia's after a you give them anything at all?

With kindest regards,


Anne's response:

Large camellias do have a large rootball. The easiest way to get them out of the ground is with a backhoe or a tree spade that can support the root ball without breaking any of the feeder roots. Trying to pull them out of the ground with a rope and truck will break roots and bruise the bark of the tree. They do need to be watered well to soften the ground before removing the plants. Prepare their new place by digging a hole that is no deeper than the rootball of the plant and about twice the width of the rootball. Mix some of the native soil with finely ground pine bark and other organic soil conditioners. Put about 4 inches of the mixture in the bottom of the hole and pput the camellia in place. Fill the hole up half way with the soil mixture and water it well. Add the rest of the soil and water the plant well. Use pine bark mulch to cover the original root ball (which will probably be an inch or two higher than the surrounding ground) and an area that extends at least a foot beyond the rootball. A 3 inch deep layer of mulch is all that is needed and don’t put it up right next to the trunk.

Rubber tree removal

Dear Anne,

We had to remove a 30' rubber tree from our yard because it was pushing in the cement around the pool. We jackhammers away all of the old cement around the pool and have been digging the large roots out. Will the tree come back from the roots? I don't want to put down a new pool deck and have the tree come back through it.

We live near the beach in Orange County CA and are looking for new plants to grow next to the fences that will not cause a mess in the pool and will have minimum root systems. Can you give us some suggestions?

Lessa C.

Anne's response:

Rubber trees can come back from underground roots but they can be controlled by spraying the plant with Roundup as soon as the new growth appears. The growth would not come back up under the concrete but in an area close to the edge.

As for suggestions for plants along your fence I suggest you contact the California Cooperative Extension Service for a list of suggested plants.
A local garden center or nursery would also have some suggestions for plants that work.

Teak and Silver Oak saplings

Hi Anne,

Recently i planted 4 teak and 4 Silver Oak saplings in our newly purchased piece of land. The distance between our residence is about 40 Kms and hence I was not in a position to water them daily. I planted it on a Friday evening and on Saturday eveing the Teak leaves were showing black spots and the silver oak leaves were in red color instead of green. I watered during eveings till Sunday and left it. On wednesday when I checked, 2 of the teak leaves are completely black in color and the silver oaks were all having red colors. The land has few green grass growing on. Hence I assume the land must be moist even though it rains once in a week. Even if the Tree leaves are gone, will they grow back when it rains or when the roots are quite established? I live in Bangalore, India where the temperature is around 28C to 36C, partly cloudy with rainfall expected every 3 days or so during this time. What should I do to save them ? What is your advice on growing these trees? I have already put manure for them.


Anne's response:

The change in color of the leaves happened entirely too quickly to be transplant shock so I suspect the trees were suffering from drought before you planted them. I prefer not to fertilize or manure plants when they are put in the ground. They need to develop a root system so fertilizing in the spring of the year after they are put in the ground is usually the ideal time to apply fertilizer. If the plants were watered enough to get roots in contact with the land of their new home they should not need to be watered if the area you are in has rainfall as frequently as you indicate.

Mother-in-laws Tongue

Hello Anne, i live in canada ontario and had a mother in laws tongue in the family for over 25 years it is sansivieria trisfascini or something like that, how can it bloom i wanna know the secret on how to make it bloom, or is it impossible for it in canada to bloom?

Philippe C.

Anne's response:

My “Mother-in-laws Tongue” or Snake plant does not bloom every year. It needs to be kept moist all year long and it needs at least 8 hours of good light during the spring for blooms. The plants grow and thrive in areas with low light levels but they do need more light for blooms.

Lime sulfate

Anne, I was listening to you and Mike one Sat a.m., and wrote the words "lime sulfate" on a sliver of paper. I think it had something to do with roses. What are the benefits and for which plant?

Thanking you in advance....

Kay W. of Cary

Anne's response:

I think we were probably talking about Lime sulfur that is used as an organic control of disease and insects. It can be used to control powdery mildew on roses when they leaf out in the spring and is used during the dormant season as a control for aphids, mites and scale. I use lime sulfur in February when I cut back roses as a control for black spot. It should not be used when the air temperature is above 85F. Lime sulfur is actually the chemical Calcium polysulfide.

Dogwood Bush

I have a pale green dogwood bush and it is bearing berries now. Can I prune it and when?

Robert M.

Anne's response:

I would not prune any plants right now if they are under heat and drought stress. Remember if you prune a dogwood anytime between now and the time they bloom you are cutting off the spring blooms when you prune.


Hi Anne,

I want to plant a yellow rose bush in our garden, but I'm not sure if I should wait until next spring, or plant it this fall. Also, the spot that I want to plant it in can become a bit wet whenever we get a heavy rain. Is there something I can do to the soil or hole to make it drain a bit better? Thank you for any information.


Delila S.

Anne's response:

Roses do not do well in spots that get soggy. If you can dig a deep, wide hole, put about 2 inches of gravel in the bottom and then amend the area with compost when you plant it may help. Roses do well in the South when planted in the fall but if the weather continues dry this fall I would wait until spring. There is usually a better selection of plants in the spring. We have a beautiful “Teasing Georgia” yellow rose in the Raulston Arboretum. It is a large shrub rose with double flowers that has great resistance to Blackspot.